When children share their own stories it provides entry into different worlds and helps them learn more about others and themselves.
This is according to literacy experts Phil and Sharon together with Wayne Dutschke, a well-known winemaker and founder of Dutschke Wines in South Australia who is also the author of children’s picture book ‘My Dad has Purple Hands!‘
They spoke on a recent podcast of The Teachers Toolkit for Literacy about the importance of sharing your own stories, which can expose students to information in a way that’s understandable and more immersive.
“I thought [writing the book] was a good idea because there’s so many books about the technology of wine-making, visiting the vineyards and picture books of various regions, but I didn’t know of a kids book on wine,” Wayne explained.
“It allows the children to use their imagination a bit. Sure, there’s illustrations in a kids book like this. But if you read a book, your interpretation and what you see might be different to what someone else sees.”
Sharon added: “This is a lovely example that [books] help us to learn more about our world and others. And so, when I see someone with purple hands, I’ve got an entry point into talking to them about, ‘oh, are you a winemaker? Have you been crushing grapes lately?’”
Sharon and Phil explained that these type of books are an engaging learning technique for students, as opposed to solely relying on non-fiction sources.
“Sometimes it’s the book that also brings the experience when we can’t go and do it for ourselves … We can bring information to students through factual text or through video or through film or whatever medium. But my goodness, it absolutely adds new layers and new depth when we bring it in a literary form, because it brings insights [and] it really comes in at a human level,” Sharon said.
Phil said: “We could get a factual book about wine-making, but there’s so much more power for a teacher to read to the kids, or the kids to read for themselves a story that draws them into this world.”
Sharon, Phil and Wayne all believe that teachers should enable children to write not just their own stories, but also the stories of those around them.
“I think we all deserve to have people being interested in our stories. We have so much to learn from each other, but through telling our own stories, I think we also learn more about ourselves too,” Sharon explained.
“If we want to have children writing stories or writing in a way where we can really hear their voice and have them motivated and engaged to write, then we want to help them find the stories that they have that are part of their lives.
“We can really look to books as models for letting us see how authors write their stories and share their stories and how that can help us get on to thinking about our own stories and finding out not just our own stories, but we have stories to tell about other people that we know.
“[It’s] very easy for students to find the stories about a parent, or a grandparent, or somebody in their family about what they do … that is a story to tell. It doesn’t have to be a story just about me, but it can be about my experiences with what a parent does or a significant person in my life and what they do.”
When it comes to eliciting more personal story writing in the classroom, Sharon and Phil also said that oral rehearsal, asking questions and knowing your intended audience is crucial.
“Sometimes we don’t always know our own stories enough until somebody asks us … we don’t often take time to even reflect and look back at, you know, what a good life we’ve had or still a likely to have in front of us, you know?” Wayne said.
Sharon shared some initial thoughts on where students can start with their own stories.
“We would begin by asking the question of ‘what stories do we have?’ We all have stories to tell and what are those stories? So to get those going, I think we would be doing that through a lot of oral to begin with, to start talking and sharing,” she said.
“Stories aren’t a static thing. And in [Wayne’s] instance, wine, by the time you got to tell that, you already had that story in your head. Maybe not in those words, but you’d been telling a story of being a winemaker for a long time. So, it was well known and actually a practiced story. So you’d talked it and shared that a lot before it came to be one that could come out for a younger audience.”